[Ip-health] Guardian: World's poorest face vaccine delays through Covax programme

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Mar 25 23:49:50 PDT 2021


World's poorest face vaccine delays through Covax programme

Technical problems at South Korean vaccine plant and setbacks in export
licences from India cause holdup

Michael Safi


Thu 25 Mar 2021 13.04 GMTFirst published on Thu 25 Mar 2021 09.54 GMT

Some of the world’s poorest countries have been warned to expect delays in
the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines through the UN-backed Covax programme
after a double blow of technical problems at a South Korean manufacturing
plant and setbacks in securing export licences from the Indian government,
Unicef has said.

Up to 90m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine may be affected by the
twin issues, which came after reports on Wednesday that India had put a
temporary hold on vaccine exports amid a rise in new cases there.

Some of the countries expecting doses through Covax over the next week are
South Sudan, Mauritius, Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yemen, where the
government on Wednesday declared a health emergency as a second wave of
infections takes off. Unicef said on Thursday it was not immediately clear
how those deliveries would be affected.

“The Covax facility has informed participants allocated volumes of the
[Oxford/AstraZeneca] vaccine produced in South Korea that shipment volumes
will be lower than planned in March,” a Unicef spokesperson said.

“In line with the challenges of the current global supply environment, this
is due to challenges the company faces in rapidly scaling up supply and
optimising production processes for these early deliveries. AstraZeneca has
informed the [Covax] facility it will make up the delayed volumes during
the April-May period.”

The UN organisation said it was working to confirm whether doses from the
Serum Institute of India, the largest supplier to Covax, were subject to an
export ban but said it understood there had been a “setback in securing
export licences”.

“We understand that deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines to lower-income
economies participating in the Covax facility will likely face delays
following a setback in securing export licences for further doses of
Covid-19 vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India expected to be
shipped in March and April,” the Unicef spokesperson said.

Covax – a collaboration between Unicef, the World Health Organization, the
vaccine alliance Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness
Innovations – uses purchases by wealthier nations to fund vaccine supplies
to poorer and middle-income countries.

It has so far distributed 28m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
manufactured by the Serum Institute, and said it was expecting an
additional 40m doses to be available in March and up to 50m doses in April.

The Serum Institute is contracted to supply 1bn vaccine doses to Covax this
year, and received $300m in funding support from Gavi and the Gates
Foundation to assist it in expanding its capacity.

But the Serum Institute has competing commitments to AstraZeneca, the
Indian government and to the contracts it signs privately to supply
overseas governments, and it is not clear how the Pune-based manufacturer
prioritises customers.

It has become apparent this week that India exercises the right to veto the
Serum Institute’s exports depending on its own requirements. New cases
across the country grew to 50,000 a day on Wednesday, the highest number in
five months, prompting the government to ramp up its national vaccination

At a rate of administering 3m doses a day, Delhi has already bought enough
supplies to last about 50 days but is expecting to administer higher
numbers to head off a possible second wave of cases.

“Covax is in talks with the government of India with a view to ensuring
deliveries as quickly as possible,” Unicef said.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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